In most cases, technology offers the consumer a lot of choice. Not so with Internet Service Providers. ISPs tend to be regional in nature; even the nation’s largest provider, Comcast/Xfinity, is retricted to 39 states. Some ISPs are found only in certain cities, making choices even slimmer.
Making the situation more complex is all the different ways to connect to the Internet. DSL, cable, satellite, fiber and wireless broadband are available technologies but most consumers only have the choice of one or two of these services. Recent internet provider reviews revealed that 20% of respondents had a single choice for an ISP. Most respondents also said they would not recommend satellite service to anyone, despite it being available everywhere.
Fiber network FiOS came in with top marks in all 12 states and Washington D.C. where it is available. It received an 8.8 rating overall, as well as 8.8 for speed and 9.1 for reliability. It was also the most recommended ISP by its customer base. FiOS presented with a 6.1 in regards to fees but this is typical, as most consumers do not like to part with their money. This ISP was ranked highest in technical support, although it was rarely needed.
By the metro areas that it serves, FiOS drew the highest rating, 9.0, in Dallas-Fort Worth for customer satisfaction, while New York City and Boston users, 9.3 each, were the most likely to recommend the service to others. Customers in Los Angeles, 8.6, and Philadelphia, 8.5, had the lowest satisfaction numbers but were still much higher than other ISPs.
Internet provider reviews further reveal that after FiOS is crossed off the list, service satisfaction goes way down. WOW!, a cable internet provider found in the Midwest states of Michigan, Ohio and Illinois that had an honorable mention in a 2010 survey, was second in overall satisfaction ratings. It did see a drop of of 3%, from 8.4 to 8.1, but its customer base was still recommending it at the same rate. WOW! scored the highest ratings amongst cable providers regarding fees, reliability and speed.
Fiber service was the consumer favorite for connection type, due to the popularity of FiOS. Another fiber provider, AT&T U-verse, garnered decent ratings but came in behind the highest rated cable services of WOW! and Cox Communications.
Almost all cable ISPs ranked higher than the third most popular service choice of DSL. Only South and Midwestern cable provider MediaCom came in with lower ratings than DSL, with the exception of Frontier, at 6.2. MediaCom was also the least likely to be recommended amongst all ISPs except satellite providers HughesNet and WildBlue, which scored 3.9 and 3.8. These are the lowest ratings ever found by internet provider reviews. Many users of satellite Internet service recommend that consumers try to find any other type of service, if possible. Over 50% of the respondents on satellite service said it was the only choice available to them.
(Courtesy of Flickr User: hyku)
Wireless broadband is growing in popularity, with many respondents saying it was their main way of connecting. This type of service, which utilizes the 3G and 4G networks that power mobile data transfer, is nowhere near the speed of fiber, however, in some areas it can match DSL or cable. Verizon’s 4G LTE network has been clocked at between 5 and 12Mbps. One test even pulled a speed of 21Mbps which, while lightning-fast, will easily surpass a data cap in very short order.
Wireless is convenient, as it does not require the drilling of holes or installation of wires. Connectivity is achieved through plugging a dongle into the computer’s USB port or a router and it has the added advantage of being mobile, so the service can be taken wherever the consumer goes. Two wireless ISPs, Clearwire and Verizon Wireless, brought in less than stellar ratings but were still highly recommended by the user base, due to the uniqueness of the service and the overall benefits it provides. Clearwire’s fee ratings were actually higher than those of FiOS.
In summary, fiber networks are the clear winner in the Internet Service Provider market. Due to its limited availability, many consumers will choose cable or DSL, then wireless to fulfill their service needs.